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THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX

Music Of The Animated Adventure
Award-winning composer and arranger William Ross was brought on board to create the score for The Tale of Despereaux. Working with Gary Ross, he developed a vision for the film's thematic, orchestral score. Informing their choices would be the courage, bravery and curiosity of our hero mouse, as well as the many emotions experienced by the creatures he meets on his quest.

"There are very few people any more who can write this rich, lush and orchestral a score,” commends Gary Ross. "Bill's tonal range is just staggering. In a movie like this, with such a complex narrative, his contribution was absolutely vital.”

Through the composition of the music, William Ross found he could help shape the emotional development and progress of the story as it unfolds. A longtime orchestrator, he also appreciated the filmmakers' commitment to employ a variety of instruments like wood flutes, lutes and other folk instruments to help create, as he says, "a colorful sound environment.”

Though the music selections made by the composer would be character driven, he knew the composition needed to live on its own. What he found to be the most challenging was discovering each of the main character's themes. For example, to give our hero the nobility he deserved, William Ross created Despereaux's "Knight's Theme,” a composition infused with melodic instruments, woodwinds and, most appropriately, the French horn. Completing the sounds unique to Despereaux's theme were the occasional English horn and violin.

While it is very common in film for themes to repeat, both Rosses believed there should not be exact reprisals of each theme each time they were reintroduced. The composer explains: "As we discussed the compositions, Gary and I agreed that we would constantly look for new ways to introduce themes and musical material, always hoping to move the plot forward, and not backtracking by repeating things as they were used earlier in the film.”

While live-action movies usually offer composers the ability to create music for footage that has been shot in real time (and easily accessible), animation presented a unique set of challenges for the composer. William Ross relied on the producers and directors to walk him through the storyboards so he could write appropriate music for each stage of the animated adventure.

"When you're writing to storyboard, you must imagine the possibility of what will eventually happen with the drawings,” offers the composer. "It makes a huge difference when the animation is complete. As an example, when a scene in Mouseworld goes from day to night, it wasn't obvious in the storyboard how dramatic that would be. Once we saw the final animation, we altered the music by creating a lullaby effect that supported the temporal transition that was so much more apparent in the final animation than in the storyboard. It was a detail that we only really saw in the final and missed in the storyboard.”

The team enjoyed being able to evoke the sounds of the Middle Ages in The Tale of Despereaux. This is specifically at play in the scenes where we find the Dorian King, estranged from Princess Pea after the Queen's death, mournfully strumming his lute. He is so lost in his thoughts and deep in depression that he can't even hear the shouts of Despereaux as he tries to warn him about Pea's dangerous situation. While originally envisioned as a guitar or mandolin, the scene was reimagined when William Ross and the filmmakers were drawn to the haunting strings of the period-appropriate lute.

As the light disappears from the story, the crew agreed that Ratworld should be a place that felt very uncomfortable, scary and dark—a complete contrast to the safe and secure Mouseworld. To assist with that savage sound, William Ross would punctuate scenes with a tribal feel—complete with heavy pe

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